Over the last several years I have been praying and asking God to teach me to hear His voice. My dad is a storyteller and full-time evangelist. Now, when I say full-time I don’t mean that he’s paid to be an evangelist. What I mean is that he is literally always evangelizing. In my dad’s world, a broken down car, a bankruptcy, a trip to the hospital or his son getting shot are all events that lead you to people who God wants to share His love with. I really admire my dad’s ability to allow God to work through him in every situation and he’s the reason that I’ve been asking God to teach me to hear His voice.
I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone but I seem to live with a continual sense that my time is limited. I feel the reality that I will soon stand on the edge of eternity and when I look back on my life I will not have the opportunity to re-live it. As a former addict and horrific husband I have a deep gratitude for the grace that God showed me when Jesus died for my sins and I’m grateful for His grace in my life. The Bible says that “he who is forgiven much, loves much” and to show God my love by passing His love on to other broken and hurting people.
With a world so heavily addicted to image and self preservation, I find that the only way to truly touch people’s lives is to follow God’s lead. While I look at the outside of a person, God looks at their heart and He can guide me to the right person, at the right time and lead me to say just the right thing. I don’t want to swing in the dark. I want God to direct me and lead me to people who are open to His love. I want to make a difference, I want to grow His family. All of this motivates me to want to hear His voice and the more I hunger the more I hear.
The problem with hearing is that it requires obedience. You see, if I don’t listen to God then I don’t have anything to obey. My kids know this trick and often try to weasel out of discipline by saying that they “didn’t hear me’. The more I listen to God, the more uncomfortable I get.
I like the gradual approach. When I get in the river, I slowly wade out into the freezing water and torture myself inch by submerging inch. I’m not sure why that’s more comfortable then just diving in head first and getting it over with but I can’t get by the psychological barrier, so until I break that barrier you’ll find me half frozen, inching my way into the deeper water.
By nature I would tend to work the same way with people. I tend to be socially awkward. If everything worked the way I’d like it to, God would point me to someone to befriend and sometime months down the road we gradually begin to talk about spiritual things. It usually takes me awhile to get comfortable with people, but God doesn’t seem to have the same problem. Just in the last 24 hours I’ve wound up praying with two different ladies that I had only just met. Both times God prompted me to pray with them and yes, both times I tried to ignore Him.
The first lady came to a business meeting that I had organized t. She sat right next to me and eventually I began to hear God’s voice telling me that I should pray for her. Pray for her? I didn’t even know if she was a Christian, and there were lots of other people in the room. After all we weren’t at church! We were sitting in a public book store surrounded by business people and bookworms. What if she didn’t want prayer, what if she got offended or worse yet what if she made a scene in front of all of these people? I could hear God, but I guess I didn’t really trust Him, so I just kept talking to her about other things.
Eventually, I mentioned an addiction program that I run through our church and suddenly her eyes lit up! She wanted to know all about the church, she is a believer but she isn’t currently attending a church. She is in a season of some pretty difficult trials and it just so turns out that she needed some encouragement and she needs a good church to come around her and support her. At this point I finally realized that it was “safe” to pray for her so I took her and we prayed. Before leaving she told me that this must have been a divine appointment... if it had been up to my courage this would have been little more than a divine disappointment! Praise God, that He worked through me despite my own weakness. He knows that I want to learn to hear His voice and as a good Father He is being patient with me as I learn to not only hear Him but to actually trust Him enough to obey what I hear.
Today, he gave me another opportunity. I was down downtown and walked into a building past the receptionist. On my way back down I felt God prompting me to stop and pray with her. Again I questioned Him, “Pray for her? The only thing she knows about me is that I was looking for a business license and I don’t know anything about her...” I kept walking toward the exit, working quickly to convince myself that God didn’t really expect me to pray with her. Even though I was trying to wiggle out the door, I could sense God telling me to go back. Reluctantly I spun around and walked back toward her desk. I asked her name, introduced myself and offered to pray with her. That’s when she told me about her friend who is dying of cancer, and the burden that she feel trying to be an emotional support. As she talked, I listened. One ear was listening to her story and the other ear was listening to God reminding me that He is the one who knows all things.
God wanted to encourage her today and the only two things He needed from me were for me to listen and obey. I’m starting to get the listening part down and I have a feeling that, through God’s grace, the obeying part is going to be catching up pretty quickly too.